I rarely comment in my blogs about geopolitical affairs, reserving such things primarily for my News and Views from the Nefarium, but there is something significant enough going on that I decided to talk a a bit about it today. It was sparked by the recent border clash between India, the world's largest democracy and a nuclear power, and Communist China, also a nuclear power, and because L.G.R. sent me an article about the latest development in what I believe to be a massive geopolitical realignment taking place.
By now most readers of this website will have read or heard about the border clash between elements of the Indian Army and the People's Liberation Army along the two countries' northern border. In the wake of that clash, L.G.R. sent along the following article, which, I shall argue, is confirming we may be watching the formation of a new kind of bloc:
The reasoning given by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for the transfer of troops from Germany to China are clear enough:
When asked why the US had reduced the number of troops in Germany, Pompeo said that if US troops were no longer there, it was because they were being moved to other places.
He said the actions of the ruling Chinese Communist Party meant there were “threats to India, threats to Vietnam, threats to Malaysia, Indonesia and the South China Sea challenge. We are going to make sure the US military is postured appropriately to meet the challenges,” he said.
One of the reason Pompeo gave for the move was the recent clash between Indian and Chinese troops at Galwan Valley.
“The PLA (People’s Liberation Army) has escalated border tensions with India, the world’s most populous democracy. It’s militarising the South China Sea and illegally claiming more territory there, threatening vital sea lanes,” Pompeo said, a day after he expressed deep condolences to India on the death of 20 soldiers in violent clashes with the PLA troops at the Galwan Valley in Ladakh on June 15.
As Pompeo spoke of reprioritising and reallocating US defence in Asia, three US aircraft carrier strike groups that include other ships have been deployed in the Indo-Pacific zone in a show of force for the first time in about three years.
There are also plans to deploy American missiles in Kashmir, most probably Ladakh. To this extent US Defense Chief Mark Esper has stated in very clear terms that “The US is looking to deploy new ground-launched, intermediate-range missiles in Asia. We would like to deploy a capability sooner rather than later.”
The deployment of intermediate range American missiles in Asia to counter the growing Chinese threat and erratic behavior was, in my opinion, most likely discussed privately by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Trump during the latter's summit meeting in India. Where those missiles might be deployed has not yet been revealed, as almost anywhere one can imagine raises delicate political issues for the host country. But the deployment follows a little-noticed move by Russian President Vladimir Putin who has recently deployed tactical and intermediate range missile batteries in Siberia, and recent revelations from Japan that that country is considering the development of a preemptive strike capability, one which according to the Japanese themselves might include "kinetic weapons," i.e., "rods of God" weapons, a convenient way for Japan to develop a strategic strike capability that is not reliant on nuclear weapons. Additionally, Japan has indicated that it will make funds available for the U.S. reopening of its naval base in Subic Bay, the Philippines. Curiously, Beijing has been very reluctant to discuss how many casualties it suffered from its incursion into Indian territory, a point which in my opinion indicates that the "People's Liberation Army" may have had its nose badly bloodied, and this is certainly the view being put out in the Indian media. From the Chinese standpoint, if "population is power," then India is its biggest long term threat. The population of the two countries is closing; India's economy is now in the top five in the world; it is a nuclear power, has deployed very sophisticated weapons systems, and is also a space power.
So what's going on? Well, for one thing, the BRICSA entente of just a few years ago is, for all intentions and purposes, dead, and that means China's One Belt One Road initiative is in very serious trouble, if only for the simple reason that Mr. Modi's government did not role over and play dead. Anything but. Mr. Xi has overplayed China's hand, and now China is losing both trade, good will, and status. The Wuhan virus story certainly has not helped, and as I blogged yesterday, the rampant use of fraudulent gold bullion as collateral for massive loans - in the billions of dollars - calls into question the health of the whole Chinese economy. Mr. Putin's recent call for a new system of collective security could also be interpreted as a veiled concern about China, since in practical terms, "collective security" has historically meant that weaker powers combine to face a stronger power, or, a rising and "revisionist" power: Germany in the 20th century, and now China in the 21st. As China believes "population is power," the vast emptiness of Siberia is a tempting target, and while the Russian military is among the world's best in terms of technology and operational competence, sheer numbers alone could overwhelm Russia. Additionally, while Russia does need Chinese capital for its infrastructure development plans for Siberia, there's another power it can turn to: Japan, and as we have seen, Mr. Abe and Mr. Putin have been conducting quiet rounds of diplomacy and striking various trade deals. As I also reported a few months ago, the Japanese ran railroad tests on the Trans-Siberian for the Russians. In my opinion, that was a clear message from Mr. Putin to Mr. Xi: there are other countries that Russia can obtain high-speed rail technology from. In other words, while Russia would like to cooperate with China, it does not need it. And as I've also pointed out, Japan stands to gain much by a closer relationship with Russia, since Russia has energy resources Japan needs, and it's much closer to hand than the risky supply routes through the South China Sea. A Russian energy for Japanese capital and technology deal would suit the long-term interests of both countries quite well.
So what's going on? I suspect we're watching the formation of a "Quadruple Entente," an informal understanding among the four other Pacific powers vis-a-vis China; not a formal alliance as such, but a recognition on the part of each that they all face a common threat from a country that, as recent events have demonstrated, simply cannot be trusted, either politically, militarily, or economically. The Russians, like America, and pretty much everyone else, have had their technologies stolen by China, which then produces it without license, a fact that Russia has formally protested to Beijing, without effect. When one adds to this "Quadruple Entente" the other countries in the region with their own beefs against China and their own significant and justifiable reasons to mistrust it - Indonesia, The Philippines, Australia, Vietnam, South Korea and so on - and the encirclement of that country is almost total.
All this means that Mr. Xi's regime is both very weak, and very dangerous, for having boxed China in as a result of his own policies, he must now appear "tough" to ward off growing internal opposition, and he desperately needs a "victory" on the world stage. And these developments also mean that even if he is replaced by some other faction within the Chinese Communist Party, the emerging "Quadruple Entente" is not likely to go away any time soon, especially when one considers the state of affairs in the USA, which are very bad. The domestic instability - which in my opinion is not going to go away soon - of the USA means, inevitably, that other world powers increasingly realize that the USA itself is no longer the stable ally it once was, and with a powerful, embarrassed, but weakened China on the scene, USA or no USA, there will be at least a Pacific Triple Entente of India, Japan, and Russia.
The problem for the "Quadruple Entente", to put it country simple, is not China. It is Chinese Communism.
There is another associated problem here. With the growing instability of the USA as an ally, this is forcing both Japan and Germany (along with the rest of Europe), to reevaulate their own security needs. And in all cases, the conclusion is the same: "we need to expand our militaries; we can no longer rely on the USA." This will lead inevitably, in my opinion, for calls for those two nations, plus India, to have a permanent seat on the UN Security council with the veto power that goes with it.
And there's one more lesson to beware of here. The "collective security" of the original Triple Entente - Russia, France, and Great Britain - was for but one purpose, to surround and isolate the "revisionist power" of that day: Imperial Germany.
We all know how well that worked out...
See you on the flip side...